AN: Please refer to the end of the story for vocab and notes.

Disclaimer: I would say I wished I owned Inuyasha, except Takahashi-sama is so much better at it than I could ever be!

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Lychee

Kagome hadn't bathed in twenty-four hours, which meant Inuyasha could finally stand to be a normal distance downwind of her smelly hair. That jelly-stuff she rubbed in it whenever she bathed smelled so cloyingly sweet that for the first half an hour after she put it in, he could hardly bear to be within a thirty-foot radius of her. And then she got Sango doing it too! Which is why Inuyasha usually volunteered to hunt dinner, in hopes that by the time he returned the air around them would be semi-breathable.

Tonight, however, the stink had faded to a pleasant fruity aroma, mixed with the sweat and dirt Kagome, like the rest of them, had accumulated on this hot day's grueling ten-mile journey. Currently, Inuyasha was perched on the thick branch of an old cherry tree, enjoying the brief breezes to be caught fifteen foot above the ground. Sango, Miroku, and Kagome all lolled against the base of the tree, legs splayed in the comforting shade the tree offered. Shippou lay on his back across Kagome's thighs, his whole tiny body covered with perspiration, even from Inuyasha's vantage point, his breathing heavy.

"Won't the sun go down already," whined the kitsune cub into Kagome's stomach.

"Shut it, runt," said Inuyasha, but his heart wasn't in it, and it came out more exhausted than exasperated. Inuyasha's mind kept drifting off to the past, to a similarly hot day he hadn't known he remembered.

Fruit, he thought, I was eating fruit then. What fruit? Why am I thinking of this when I should be hunting dinner? Keh. But the heat was oppressive, and no one seemed inclined to move in the least, so Inuyasha sank back into his tree branch, listlessly picking at his fire-rat-fur kariginu. Again, a whiff of that fruit of that long ago day! The name prickled at the tips of his consciousness, and Inuyasha knew he could add the name of that fruit to the ever-growing list of things that peeved him. It currently fell at number three, right behind the smell of Kagome's shanpuu and the disgusting heat.

Wait! Inuyasha blinked. Kagome's hair smelled like the fruit! Well, it smelled like a variety of fruits, now that the stink had lessened and he could tell. But that fruit was one of them. It was almost exciting enough to energize him. He flopped forward on the branch, breathing out in a huff and then inhaling carefully. Yes, it certainly was Kagome's hair that smelled of the fruit. Unnoticed by any of his companions, Inuyasha allowed his face to be graced by a small smile.

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Half an hour later, Kagome and Shippou still lay sleeping at the base of the cherry tree. Sango had gone off to bathe, and Miroku, after starting a fire, had followed, ostensibly to rinse his hands and gather some greens, but of course to see how long he could peep at Sango without getting clobbered. Inuyasha just snorted to himself. Fucking lecher never learns, he thought. Day finally having faded into twilight, the heat seeping away into the dark, Inuyasha felt the need to stretch his stiff muscles. He leapt from the tree, and, following his nose, set off in pursuit of dinner.

Five minutes later he returned, and seeing that Kagome was safely asleep, began to pluck and gut two large marsh birds he had caught near the river. He snickered to himself. Kagome could face a demon battle without a hint of squeamishness, but show her a dead animal that was soon to be dinner, and she'd gulp and go all white-faced.

"Inuyasha?"

Kagome had woken. Inuyasha turned to look at her, one hand still embedded in a bird's stomach.

"Is that dinner?"

Inuyasha grunted assent, glad she wasn't going "freak," as she put it, at the sight of the birds' blood.

"And breakfast, too," he added.

"Oh. There are two. Yeah, that's plenty. Well," she looked at the small fox demon in her lap, "if you boys don't pig out, it'll be plenty."

"Keh. I'm no pig."

Kagome giggled. "No, but this one here –" she playfully tugged Shippou's tail, which caused him to yip softly and roll over, "is a voracious little thing."

"Still growing." said Inuyasha, cutting strips of meat from the birds' carcasses with his claws and stringing them on a long, thin stick planted on the ground in front of him. He heard Kagome giggle "shish kebab" under her breath, but decided against inquiring as he liked his sanity very much intact, thank you. Instead, he opted to ask Kagome about what had been preoccupying him all afternoon.

"Kagome, what's in your sha-shanpuu?" Thinking the foreign word was one thing. Saying it was another.

"You mean the smell? 'Cause I don't know what chemicals they put in it. Well, anyway, I think it's pomegranate, persimmon, and lychee," she said, "I would check but I believe Sango took it with her."

"Lychee…" Inuyasha breathed.

"Why?" said Kagome, then realized she had heard Inuyasha say "lychee," "What about lychee?"

"That's what it was," said Inuyasha to himself, as he propped the stick from which the strips of meat hung on a pot to await Miroku's eventual return with the greens and Sango. The birds' bones he put in another pot, which he set on the fire. He reached for the last few rib bones, found them heavier than expected, and discovered, upon bringing them to eye level, that the reason for this was that Shippou had chomped onto them and was currently salivating all over them.

"Eugh." grunted Inuyasha, dropping the bones and the fox.

"What was it?" said Kagome from the vicinity of his right shoulder.

"What was what?" he replied, bemused to find her face a mere foot from his.

"Lychee. What about lychee?"

"Oh, nothing."

Kagome did not look placated. In fact, by the way her eyebrows were swiftly descending and her eyes narrowing, Inuyasha guessed that they were headed in the direction of a loud and pointless row. Just as Inuyasha was thinking this, her eyebrows resumed their usual places on her brow, and her expression slid from calculating to thoughtful. Inuyasha, perfectly comfortable dealing with a screaming and ranting Kagome, as it never lasted too long and was, in his opinion, an excellent way to let off steam, squirmed.

"It wasn't nothing," she said softly, "But you don't have to tell me."

Then she straightened up, walked back to the cherry tree, and reclaimed her seat beneath it. Inuyasha, funnily, was left feeling almost as uncomfortable as when they had fights and said things that really hurt each other. It wasn't precisely that he didn't want to tell her, it was that he'd never told anyone about those times, times that he'd hidden deep in his memory as a child, for fear of falling into despair and depression. Living alone as he was, those emotions would have been his undoing.

But I'm not alone anymore, he realized. Kagome said so. And Kagome said she would stay with me. And do you really think she will, he countered himself. Inuyasha looked at the girl, who, still sweating lightly from the evening's warmth, had rolled up her sleeves and sullenly begun digging a hole in the dirt with her left pinky finger. Inuyasha surprised himself with a chuckle that Kagome didn't hear. Yes, he thought, surprised and pleased, yes, I think she will.

Fluidly, Inuyasha stood and walked to the tree, sinking somewhat gracefully to sit next to Kagome.

"My mother gave me some lychees to eat once as a present." Funny how saying out loud made the memory a lot more real than just thinking about it.

Kagome turned her head sharply to look at him. Instead of pity, which he had been expecting, Inuyasha saw that Kagome was sad but smiling.

"Did you like them?" she asked, tiny smile growing.

"Yeah."

"Did she?"

"Yeah." And Inuyasha couldn't help but smiling himself. "I cut them open, and then she tossed them to me. I caught every single one in my mouth." Unbeknownst to him, Inuyasha's smile had grown into the first sincere, happy grin Kagome had ever seen him wear. But all good things must end, and Inuyasha's thoughts of his mother were quickly followed by those of her death and her absence.

Kagome watched the change in silence, realizing again how much pain Inuyasha carried with him. The realization chilled her to her nerves. There had to be something she could do or say!

"She sounds… she sounds like a wonderful person, Inuyasha. I would have liked to meet her."

"She was good. And strong. And almost always smiling, even though our lives were pretty shitty."

"At least," Kagome's voice cracked, and for the first time since he'd started talking about his mother, Inuyasha dared to look at her, "At least you got to know and love each other for a little while, right? That's better than nothing, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Inuyasha drew in a sharp breath, "Yeah it is, but… But I still miss her. And… and it hurts."

"Oh, Inuyasha," said Kagome softly, burying her face in his shoulder, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you ever had to be alone–"

Inuyasha had a sneaking suspicion that though he couldn't yet smell it, the girl had begun to cry into the thick material of his sleeve. He found, surprisingly, that his own throat was tight and sore and that breathing had become slightly more difficult than normal.

"Well–" Inuyasha turned his head to stare at the top of Kagome's, "I'm not alone now."

"No," Kagome gulped a deep breath against Inuyasha's shoulder, which sent odd tingles all up and down his arm, and raised her head to look him in the eye, "You're not alone now. And…"

"Me neither!" exclaimed Shippou, surprising both of them. He hopped onto Inuyasha's knee. "I was alone before I found you. And now we're all together." He beamed, and stretched his little arms out to Kagome. Kagome smiled and leaned back, to Inuyasha's disappointment, receiving the kit in her embrace, and nuzzling his round, sweaty face with her cheek.

"Yes we are. And we're going to stay that way."

"Forever?" he asked squeakily, uncertain.

"Well, no," Kagome kissed his nose tenderly, and Inuyasha, watching this, blushed, once again reminded of things past and things possibly yet to come, "Nothing's forever. But for as long as we can, okay?"

Shippou nodded. "Okay. Promise?"

"I promise, Shippou. And I know I leave a lot, but I'll always, always come back." She smiled. Inuyasha had a feeling that that hadn't been directed entirely at Shippou. Inuyasha was startled out of his musings by Shippou's question.

"And you promise too, Inuyasha? Do you promise?"

Inuyasha was sort of surprised at how raw his voice sounded to himself. "Yeah, runt. I promise – oof –" as Shippou launched himself from Kagome's arms to Inuyasha's chest, "We're not gonna leave you."

"Good," came the thin, teary voice from Inuyasha's chest, "I don't ever wanna be alone again."

"Me neither kid, me neither," whispered Inuyasha, raising one hand to lightly support the youngster's back, when his nose was suddenly assaulted by the smell of more tears.

"Oi," said Inuyasha, peeved and blushing, "Why're you crying!"

"Nothing. I'm just–" I'm so proud of you, and I love you! But Kagome settled instead for beaming lovingly at Inuyasha, hoping to convey with her eyes the thoughts she couldn't quite vocalize. And all those stupid fights they had all the time nonwithstanding, it was like when he had hugged her that first time – she saw mirrored understand and care in his golden eyes, and her heart leapt.

And then his ears twitched, and her eyes followed to see Sango and Miroku emerging from the forest; Sango was red-faced and grumpy and Miroku bore a handprint on his face and an armful of fresh greens.

"Oh ho," called Miroku, "and what are you doing?"

"Waiting for your lazy ass to get back here with the vegetables, idiot," retorted Inuyasha, rising. The moment was gone, he realized, but the peacefulness remained.

"C'mon, kit, let's go make sure the bouzu doesn't accidentally grope our dinner and ruin it–"

"Yeah!" Shippou agreed. "He can't keep his hands off anything."

Kagome giggled. Sango rolled her eyes, grumbling, "Houshi na houshi," as she and Kirara joined Kagome under the tree. Kagome laughed outright at that, and while the boys fixed the meal, the girls talked of the faults in the men they knew and in the failings of the male gender in general.

The six of them ate a leisurely meal and fell asleep amidst idle banter under the star-blanketed sky. All in all, Inuyasha thought, as he relaxed into the tree branch in which he would spend the night, it hadn't too bad a day. Not at all.

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A fruitless, hot week of shard-hunting later, Kagome found herself on her side of the well, disgruntled and short-tempered, having just had to osuwari Inuyasha in order to return to her house. Honestly, she thought, I thought we'd established that I will always come back. Sometimes I think he just does it out of habit. Urgh. And suddenly she found her annoyance slipping away. Yeah, well, when I'm gone, I miss him too, that idiot. Then she snorted to herself wryly. Maybe someday I'll tell him.

She entered the house and kicked off her shoes.

"Tadaima," she cried," Mama, jiichan, Souta, I'm home!"

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Three days, four grueling tests, and multiple wonderful meals passed before Kagome once again shouldered her backpack and prepared to return to the sengoku jidai. She stood in the kitchen, accepting some last morsels of food from her mother as she told her how long they planned to be gone this time.

"Okay, dear. Oh! And don't forget your package!"

"Oh, right! Thanks, Mama." Kagome rushed to the fridge to remove it, wrapping it in a plastic bag and stuffing in the top of her bag.

"Okay, Mama," giving said lady a kiss on the cheek, "Inuyasha's probably getting antsy, so I'm off! See you in a week or so."

"See you then, darling! Have fun and be careful!"

"Uh huh, I will!"

And then the door slammed, and Mrs. Higurashi sighed and smiled and went back to chopping her vegetables.

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He was waiting for her, as he always was. He was leaning on his elbow on the lip of the well, chin propped on his hand. He looked sufficiently bored, but Kagome noted that the claws of his free hand were drumming a-mile-a-minute on the well.

"Hey," she called, "Care to give me a hand?"

Inuyasha made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a snort, then leaped down and hauled her up.

"Thanks," she said smiling.

"Keh. Let's get back to the village."

"Hang on a sec, I've got a present for you," Kagome grabbed her bag before Inuyasha could heft it to his shoulder. She kneeled to open the top flap and pulled out the plastic-wrapped package. She took it out of its bag and handed it to him. He stared, bemused, at the jumble of little round fruits in their plastic box. Lychees.

"I just thought," she said quickly, "That since they're so easy to get in my time, I'd bring you some and maybe… maybe they'd bring back some good memories, and…yeah."

She found herself slightly short of breath, and, blushing, closed her backpack and picked it up. Inuyasha still stood, just looking at the fruit, his expression unreadable.

Kagome rose and began to walk toward the village. Inuyasha jerked his thoughts from the fruit to see her already at the edge of the clearing. In three bounds he was beside her, lychees clutched tightly in his hand.

"Here," he said, and attempted to loose Kagome's bag from her shoulder. Kagome promptly complied, glad of his offer, but said nothing more than a murmured "Thanks," still slightly embarrassed.

"Ne, Kagome," Inuyasha said after a length. She turned to look at him, noting his pause for breath and the heightened color of his cheeks. He opened his mouth and then closed it. He wanted to say "Thank you," but it seemed somehow inadequate.

"Yes?" she asked tentatively.

"I – well, they're no good to eat alone." At that his blush heightened significantly and he stared pointedly into the distance.

Kagome blushed herself and looked down at her hands, smiling, "No," she agreed, "They're much better together."

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Notes, et cetera:

Japanese vocabulary in order of appearance (like actors!):

kitsune ...fox demon

kariginu ... Inuyasha's overcoat. I've seen it called a lot of things, but I found this website: http/ www. reconstructinghistory index .html, and this lady has seriously done her research about clothes of all kinds, so I'm inclined to believe her

shanpuu ... shampoo (yeah, duh, I know! But this is how it's spelled in katakana, so I thought I'd include it.)

houshi na houshi ... licentious priest. Did you know houshi means several other things besides Buddhist priest? One of those other things is "licentious, self-indulgent," and so I couldn't help myself.

osuwari ... "Sit!" I know we all know this one.

tadaima ... "I'm home!"

jiichan ... Grandpa

Well, maybe it was too vague or ambitious for a first fic, and I'm sure I'll hate it in a few days, but right now I kinda like it, and I'd welcome any comments!

Mata ne!

P.S. I super, super, super, super, super loathe this editing program. (One "super" for every time I've had to reload it to edit it. > ' Grrr.)